By Warren Berg
It’s no surprise that Monster Energy drinks counts itself among the sponsors of “Ballistic” B.J. Baldwin in the western U.S.’ hotly contested off-road endurance racing series. Baldwin’s a man who flies pickup trucks through the air and runs them as hard and as fast as he can across the harshest environments on the planet for a living, and identifies such things as cage fighting and boxing as his leisure activities. He also likes to “run and gun,” combining speed with precision shooting at defensive distances.
“He was a concealed-carry holder for a long time, a defensive pistol practitioner and a professional gambler for a lot of years,” Baldwin recalls of his father, who taught him how to shoot. “This was back when being a professional gambler was a pretty dangerous profession. People were constantly trying to rob you and kidnap you or kidnap family members and stuff like that, so he always had a pistol on him.”
Despite the apparent devil-may-care lifestyle, Baldwin says his dad started him as many others have, shooting a comparatively pedestrian Chipmunk .22-caliber single-shot rifle when he was six years old. “He would take me shooting with it to shoot tin cans and paper targets, things of that nature, quite a long time ago.”
From that seemingly paradoxical beginning, Baldwin has amped up his firearms game such that he now calls shooting something as exotic as an M134 Gatling Gun that fires 100 rounds a second merely “pretty fun.” In fact, owning an M134 is a bucket list item for Baldwin — specifically one mounted on his Turbo Porsche.
Perhaps in homage to his father’s early adoption of personal defense, or maybe because it’s about shooting guns and having fun, when he’s not in a truck competing off-road, today Baldwin focuses most of his shooting energy at close range, combining speed with accuracy in defensive scenarios.
“I’ve got challenge coins from some benchmarks that I’ve reached through Baret Fawbush. He’s got a challenge coin system for concealed carry. The bronze coin is for one shot on target at seven yards in the A-zone in under a second from concealment, silver is two shots, gold is three shots. Three of us were able to do four shots from concealment in under a second, and he actually had to go make a few black coins just for that accomplishment,” Baldwin says of his shooting ability.
Though Baldwin does not participate in formal shooting competition, his girlfriend, Tori Nonaka, has racked up more than 20 national and international ladies pistol championships in the type of “run-and-gun” shooting sports that Baldwin enjoys. “If I were to ever try to compete just for fun, I would with her,” he says. “I’d train with her. She’s kind of taken a few months off of training this year, a few months off from competing, so if she gets back into it maybe I’ll compete.”
One thing Baldwin really likes about the shooting sports it that it is 100 percent based on your own skill set — you compete against yourself. “In my field of desert-racing motor sports, we rely on a lot of different variables for success and it’s nice to not have to worry about too many variables with the firearms,” Baldwin says of the therapeutic value of shooting, adding that he finds it relieves a lot of the stress he faces in the uncertainties in racing.
“In my world of racing, a lot of times you’ll have parts failure. You’ll lose an alternator or a transmission or a gear set or something like that, so no matter how hard you train or how hard you practice or how well you drive, sometimes bad luck kind of gets you,” he says of the various “known unknowns” and “unknown unknowns” that can instantly scuttle an otherwise perfectly run race. “When I train with a firearm, my shot placement, my speed, are based off whatever fundamentals I’m able to build. Kind of like the muscle memory, the kinesthetic connection that I’m able to build during dry practice.”
As with many top performers in the shooting sports, Baldwin credits a lot of his ability to dry-fire practice. “Ninety percent of my skills set and honing that skills set I’ve done in my living room with an empty gun,” says Baldwin of his countless holster draws to develop what he calls the “bio-mechanic efficiency” of a draw stroke, movement perfected by picking a spot on the wall, perfecting his sight alignment and trigger press and really making sure his fundamentals are correct before going to the range. “When I’m so busy I can’t go to the range for a couple of months, when I show up, it’s like I never left. You don’t have to be shooting every single day to make yourself better every single day,” he says. “People are out there trying to get better or they can’t afford to fire 5,000 rounds though their gun a month. You can always get better through dry firing practice.”
Suffice to say that if there was a safe way to combine MMA and shooting as the sport of biathlon does with skiing and shooting, this high-energy shooter would probably be all over it. Until then, he’ll keep flying trucks across the desert, running and gunning and, of course, dry-fire practicing.
Seven Things You May Not Know
1. B.J.’s real name is Robert. His sister started calling him B.J. when he was a baby, and the name stuck.
2. He’s a purple belt in Brazilian Jiujitsu.
3. His favorite food “by far” is sushi.
4. MMA legend Dana White was B.J.’s boxing coach for a time when he was a teen.
5. B.J. doesn’t have any racing superstitions, but if he sees anything that is upside down before a race, he has to turn it right side up.
6. B.J. has a lot of anxiety on race day before he gets in the truck, so he loads up on calories the day before so he doesn’t have to eat during a race.
7. When racing, Baldwin’s pitstops are 26 seconds long.
About the Author
Warren Berg is a 25-year veteran of the shooting, hunting and outdoors industry. He has penned hundreds of articles under many names for various publications including American Rifleman and Field & Stream. He has produced award-winning television programs on personal defense and has hunted extensively in North America, Europe and Africa.